I love crafting, but crafting for “free” and giving old materials new purpose is extra great. One of our recent projects was reusing some sturdy old blankets to make new beds for the dogs. I used them to make fitted box cushion dog bed covers for our home office and some durable pet mats for general use. Here are the details on our DIY recycled blanket dog beds. Plus, the scoop on dyeing the (worn and faded) fabric of the old matelassé coverlets before recycling the material.
Matelassé-style material is thick and sturdy, with a quilted look and feel. Depending on the material, this may be be from interweaving thickly loomed fabric to create thickness, pattern, and texture (real matelassé) or through layering and patterned quilting to mimic matelassé. It’s a fabulous strong fabric for upcycling or repurposing, like we do here in our DIY recycled blanket dog beds. Other strong blanket or coverlet materials can be upcycled or purchased for similar projects depending on what you have available and your style preference.
Dyeing Matelassé Blankets (in a Front Loading Washer!)
As I (slowly…) work my way through unpacking, sorting, storing, donating, or using everything at the new house, some of our old bedding, blankets, towels, and other textiles simply don’t work anymore. Beiges and neutrals of various faded and worn varieties had been following me through many moves over the years, but I’m a grey girl. The new house is perfectly me in a mix of greys and whites with a smattering of black. The dogs approve! Haha!
Most of the old bedding has been donated or relegated to frost cloth duty, but I had two very large matelassé coverlets that I was keen to salvage and repurpose, if I could successfully dye (or rather, overdye) them a more suitable grey. Refreshing and replacing beds and blankets for our dogs is always somewhere on my to-do list (so many beds, so much laundry, but I wouldn’t have it any other way). The old but sturdy matelassé fabric would be great for making DIY recycled blanket dog beds.
Starting Colour and Pattern
The beige colour meant that they should readily over-dye to grey (potentially a warmer grey due to the beige undertone). I didn’t care whether the threading wasn’t tinted to the same shade. If successful, any colour difference between the grey coverlet fabric and visible thread would just accentuate the pattern and texture in the newly grey material. There was no colour pattern in the fabric to worry about, other than the thread.
Size (Volume and Weight)
Front Loading Washing Machine Fabric Dye Issues
With a front loader, dye can’t be pre-mixed in the washing machine and then the fabric added. This meant trying either a different product or technique. I was nervous. There was a lot of checking online and, based upon products available from shops here in NZ in a grey tint colour that suited my plans, I decided to try Dylon pods. They seemed super convenient to use (too convenient, perhaps?) and had great looking smokey grey. On the downside, they’re expensive and I needed several for my envisaged medium grey coverlets and the reviews online were hit and miss. If this project was for anything other than salvaging fabric for the dogs, I might have opted to risk the mess of pouring liquid or mixed dye into the detergent drawer instead.
Wash, Dye, Wash, Dry
Following all instructions for each step of the process was easy. They also available online in lieu of the itty bitty insert that comes with the pod, if needed. The Dylon pods were very simple to use, mess-free, and recyclable afterwards (other than the plastic wrapper and peel-off top). I was so nervous watching the colour starting to mix, but it was almost impossible to tear myself away and leave the machine and pods to work their magic!
Fabric Dyeing Tips and Cautions
Reducing the Risks of Spotting, Splotching, and Other Messy Problems
Before You Take the Plunge:
- If in doubt about using your machine for dye or the potential results to the item/material you’re thinking about tinting, reconsider whether it’s actually worth the risks try dye. Once you’ve committed, there is no undo button.
- Think about the whole of your washing system before you cycle dye through your washer. If your outflow goes into a tub or sink rather than directly into a discharge, it may stain. If it goes to greywater or similar, the dye and/or salts may be incompatible.
- Beware. If your machine is new(er), dye use may void your warranty.
Dye Product Selection and Use:
- Using the fabric weight and other properties to select the right product(s) and quantities is the first step toward success, and following all the instructions for the product including any cautions, tips, etc. gives the best chances for a successful dye job.
- Where the product requires a wet fabric start, like this one, starting with completely clean and wet fabric can help to reduce the risks of splotching, spotting, or uneven coverage. That said. Nothing is perfect!
- Ensuring that there is sufficient space to for the material to agitate freely in the machine will reduce the risks of uneven colour. Unlike a top loader, you can’t pause the cycle and open up a front loader to (gloves on) shift the fabric or manually agitate during the dye process.
- Follow the cycle instructions on temperature and time, and don’t skimp on the cycle.
Extra Precautions for Messy Business:
- In case there are any little leaks, drips, or dribbles from your washing machine during the dye process, protect your floors with something expendable. I places some old rags under the door in case there was any dye dribbling during the cycle or when I opened the door.
- Follow the instructions for post-dye machine cleaning. With the pods, there was no need to do an immediate clean of the detergent drawer like there would be for a liquid or mixed dye in a front loader. This was a huge plus for the pods. Dye may stain the plastic and/or rubber parts of the machine (or outflow), so anything it contacts should be cleaned as soon as possible.
- Consider using a colour-catcher in your post-dye cleaning cycle(s) to help trap any residual dye. The colour catcher I used came out murky as, but I was very pleased that there were no lingering dye issues with our washer. Whew! Dye makes me nervous!
- Afterwards, just in case, ease back into your normal laundry with some compatible colours or other low-risk washing.
DIY Recycled Blanket Dog Beds from Old Matelassé Coverlets
How to Make a Fitted Dog Bed Cover
The matelassé fabric in my coverlets was super thick and sturdy. One of those coverlets was cut, pieced, and sewn into two identical soft but durable DIY recycled blanket dog bed covers. Fitted bed covers with boxed corners are much easier to sew than you might think! Check out our detailed post on making DIY fitted envelope-style rear closure pet beds for instructions.
Adjustments for the Matelassé Covers
For the thick coverlet fabric, pattern matching, and to reduce waste in the project, I made a few adjustments to the assembly for these covers. To share a little inspiration in making repurposed materials work in projects, here are the adjustments I used when making my matelassé versions. A little creativity, a few adaptations, and now the coverlet material has a whole new second useful life.
The coverlet was just about right to cover the beds with minimal off-cuts and waste, but because the coverlet had a wide boarder that differed from the main pattern, some sneaky cutting and piecing was required to make sure that the finishes covers would have identical sides.
The body of the beds is the geometric coverlet pattern, and the joined sides and rear closure flaps are the linear border pattern. If someone was looking for it, there is seam where the body meets the pieced side panels, but it is positioned so that it blends with the fold-over to the side. The joined panels of thick coverlet material do have a lot more bulk to join up at the rear closure, so I opted to manually pre-cut and join the rear boxes instead of my usual boxing method of joining then doing a diagonal sew-and-cut to create the box. I thought that might be too thick for my standard sewing machine to manage.
Hemming the Raw Edges of the Rear Closure Flaps
Double folding a hem on thick matelassé would be bulky. Fortunately, the liner and quilting style on this coverlet allowed me two sneaky options to cheat on the finishing.
When lining up the measurements, I positioned things so that I would only have to hem one of the rear flaps. I actually kept the inner flap longer than essential for closure to avoid the cut.
I carefully cut the edge of what would become the outer flap. Then I trimmed the inner “fluff” to remove bulk, ironed, and pinned the fabric to create a very small double-folded hem prior to sewing. If I wasn’t able to make this work, I would have opted to bind the edge instead. Fortunately, I was able to make a hem so that it remained low visibility and no extra materials were needed for my repurposing project.
I also prepared handle strips using the offcut from the rear flap, hemmed in the same way, but didn’t use them on the finished bed covers. There was too much bulk to add them to the sides. They became the only scrap material left over (other than fluff and small offcuts) from the coverlet.
Joining the Sides
The general measuring, marking, and joining of the sides to create the cover was the same for these beds as for a basic envelope, noting that there was extra prep for the rear flaps to ensure that everything lined up as wanted for the final overlap and stopped at the correctly marked position for the alternative boxing method below.
Boxing the Corners
There was going to be a lot of bulky matelassé joining up at the rear. I decided to box the front with my usual diagonal method, but to manually cut and join the rear corner and flaps. It would be easier to box the back using the same diagonal method (and careful positioning, just like our window seat or dog beds), but I wasn’t sure about my machine sewing through the bulk, especially on the joined side, so took the hard road instead.
Adding Velcro / Hook and Loop Tape
Because there was a whole lot of fabric going on and I didn’t want the distraction of sticky Velcro in the mix whilst boxing up the rear, I added the Velcro last. This method works fine for large item openings. It does leave a little gap at the edges, but it can’t be seen when the bed is closed and there is plenty of hold. It also has the advantage of being able to adjust positioning for a perfect fit when placing the Velcro on the finished cover.
Lesson learned between creating the first and second cover is that I disliked how the slightly imperfect visible stitching looked on the outer flap if sewn from the loop side. On the second cover, I very carefully pinned and sewed from the reverse instead so I could track along the line of the linear patterning. I added a feather stitch for the other edge on both beds. It’s extra secure, but since my tape was slightly narrower than the pattern, I liked the look of it instead of adding yet another line to the mix. I also used the feather in a slightly unusual way on my inner seam allowances (you can see it in the boxing collages above) to help sandwich the fabric and fluff. Very effective!
The Finished Matelassé Dog Bed Covers in Use
The finished DIY recycled blanket dog beds have been in use in the office (Oli is asleep on one behind me right now) since making. They work great. The matelassé material holds well to the carpet, unlike slippery outdoor fabric. Used together, the two beds can be placed snug together as a singled giant bed and won’t slip apart, stacked, or moved around and used separately. The downside is that they aren’t water-resistant. I knew that going into the repurposing project and made a protective waterproof inner and a custom sized waterproof topper for the dog beds. Pawfect!
If I had my serger when making these covers, I would have used it to finish the raw edges on the inside of the covers. I used my standard sewing machine with a combination of different stitches to reinforce the seam allowances and reduce the shedding of fluff. Because the matelassé has filling that is quilted into position, raw edges can be messy during construction as well as use and washing.
Recycled Matelassé Blanket DIY Dog Mats
It was around the time that the bed covers were made that I decided to take the plunge and buy a serger. No regrets! Except perhaps not getting one sooner! I put the second matelassé coverlet aside until getting the serger and used it to make these very simple flat mats. They’re for the dogs (of course) but the same DIY would work for playmats, picnic blankets, or just to make a smaller blanket from a larger one. The thick quilted textured fabric is the key to the utility of these mats.
Making the DIY Recycled Blanket Dog Mats
These mats were made with the coverlet that suffered some colour variation during dyeing. No worries about a few imperfections for indoor/outdoor floor mats! I cut the King-sized coverlet into four large pieces. Instead of straight quarters, I opted for two different sizes to work best with the pattern.
I did not cut off the existing outside edges prior to finishing with the serger. The existing hems were (on close inspection) not quite straight. I used the pattern as a guide and trimmed the uneven excess with the existing hems whilst serging to reduce effort and waste. I also opted to gently round the corners. It takes a little extra effort, but I think it’s better for durability and comfort on the mats. Great practice for me too on my new-ish machine. And done! How easy was that?
The Finished Matelassé Dog Mats in Use
They’ve actually proven far more useful that I ever imagined. They’re incredibly sturdy for paws, claws, wear and washing. The dogs love being on them. There’s enough padding to be a bit soft without fluff, which they particularly enjoyed in our summer heat. The texture is slightly grippy, which helps the mats stay in place and also helps old Oli maintain traction when getting up. The sturdy material is also less prone to blowing and flipping in the wind or with moving dogs.
Thus far, they’ve been used as beach blankets, picnic blankets, car blankets, patio mats, bed toppers, and more! We also roll them up for taking to the local café. Dogs are welcome on their patio (yay!). I bring a blanket for their comfort as well as behaviour (they wait “patiently” on their bed). These are so much better than the fleece blankets we used to use, both for comfort and staying in position.